Everything interesting, new and useful about the logistics and 3PL Industry

Archive for July, 2014

Social Media in Third-Party Logistics

Social MediaTechnology continues to alter the way companies do business, placing a huge focus on customer engagement and product marketing. Although the use of social media is fairly new to the third-party logistics arena, companies are starting to take notice and incorporate a variety of platforms into their processes.

Why social media?

Why not? Social media has now become a significant part of the industry, with companies using social networks to market products, recruit new talent, advance sales and improve customer service. Social CRM in the Supply Chain, a report from IDC Research Services indicates that logistics companies who use social media platforms see increased benefits over companies that do not use social media. According to the report, 88 percent of the respondents have reported savings in time of over 10 percent, and a 60 percent reporting of improved satisfaction among supply chain vendors and partners.

Third-party logistics companies have successfully used LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs as outreach methods to enhance their business model. Used wisely, social media can open doors and create viable partnerships for current and future business.

Go-gulf.com reports a 74 percent research rate of a company’s social media presence by consumers prior to making their decision to purchase. This means that companies must use social media effectively in traditional marketing, enhancing relationships and increasing their exposure.

One of the major obstacles in building brand equity is understanding how clients and potential customers or prospects use social media to gather information. Researching which platforms are used by these individuals and providing a relevant stream of engaging content on a continuous basis is a quick way to build and retain audiences.

Social media helps create dialogue with prospective customers and current clients. Being able to address questions and participate in conversations using Twitter or other forums helps a company stay relevant and informed on what customers and clients need and want. Being engaged through social media also allows a company to introduce new innovative methods, ideas and products that are coming down the pipeline, enhancing other marketing efforts that may be a part of the current strategy.

Using social media can help the company’s overall bottom line, and the impact of online reviews should be taken very seriously. Using a fulfilment center that is active and engaged on social media platforms can increase brand equity and enhance brand image.

What are the best social media platforms for 3PL?

That depends on your scope and marketing strategy. For executives recruiting talent, LinkedIn has proven to be a great resource, with a large number of companies using this tool, with Facebook coming in at a close second. Although every platform is not for everyone, using Twitter for quick updates and conversations is a growing trend. Companies should also consider using blogs with informative content and visuals to keep clients and customers engaged.

Putting together a strategic team to assess which platform would be most useful is important, but at the minimum, using a blog, Twitter and LinkedIn can work wonders. While Facebook has its advantages, the trend of Facebook is dwindling in certain B2B scetors. Companies should focus on those platforms that will keep them highly engaged with their customers on a continuous basis that is simple, quick and effective.

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Cultivating a Successful Partnership with your Clients

Having a great product or service that people want to buy is the first step to any successful business. However, there are a number of other steps needed to complete a satisfactory transaction between a business and their customers.

In the Internet age, most customers order their products online, which means streamlined shipping, transportation and billing systems are critical to the success of most businesses. The better these systems are, the less amount of strain will be put on the shipping of various products and the less chance of orders not being properly fulfilled, all of which will result in a higher amount of customer satisfaction.

Below are some of the best ways to cultivate a successful relationship between your business and your clients, so your customers will be sure to get what they have paid for.

Make Sure Your Warehouse is Perfectly Organized

The better organized your warehouse with the location of all the different products you are selling, the more efficiently you can track and put together orders to be shipped, so that it is easy to send your products to customers. An alphabetized shelving system is one good idea, with all products organized based on the letter of what they start with. A numerical system can also be set up — whichever system works best for your warehouse. Make sure all your employees know this system like the back of their hands as well, so that it is like a second language when doing business.

Double Check All Orders

Every order that comes through the warehouse should be put together by your team and then should have another employee or employees whose sole responsibility is to cross check the orders, making sure they are exactly right every time. This will reduce the number of incorrect or incomplete orders and will also reduce the number of orders that are delivered to the wrong addresses.

Communicate with the Shipper

Communication is key in most relationships as you should regularly communicate what you need from the client and what they need from you. This should be done on a regular basis, so that everyone is on the same page and adjustments on both sides can be made to make all of the business run that much more smoothly. This may be on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on what you think your company needs, and it may take some time to get everything smoothed out regarding the efficiency of the whole process. Making the client understand exactly what you need through various charts and graphs that detail your business and where you need things to improve may also be helpful in this whole process, so consider presenting that to them as well.

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The Manual Way – An Outdated Warehousing Practice

Your warehousing practices can mean the difference between being productive versus using your labor for unnecessary tasks. If you’re not utilizing the most current warehouse management system available to you, then you’re just throwing your money away.

How Many Of These Outdated Warehousing Systems Are You Using?

  • Paper lists or paper forms of any kind for any reason
  • Manually writing down product locations or information
  • Any type of face to face communication
  • Manual batch processing
  • Anything else you’re doing manually

Think back to the time when everything was done manually, by hand, using only paper and a pencil. That seems like it was ages ago. Now compare that to today’s technology and how quickly you can send someone an email versus writing out a handwritten letter, addressing it, sealing it, putting a stamp on it, walking it to the mailbox and having it mailed out. Then you have to wait days until your receiver gets their letter.

You can make the same comparison when it comes to how you are running your business. Whenever you do something manually, it is the equivalent of handwriting a letter and sending it in the mail. It takes more time, there are more steps and quite a bit more effort involved. And the end result can’t be achieved in real-time, which means, while you’re waiting, you are losing money.

If you are still using outdated warehousing systems, don’t you think it’s time to upgrade to something that will make your staff and your business more efficient? It’s time to stop using paper. Why write something down on a piece of paper and then have to process it again once it gets to the next step. Then you rinse and repeat that same time-wasting process for each step of the entire warehousing process until your product reaches its final destination.

All those manual steps intermingled with the face to face communications that are necessary when you are not using an updated warehousing system just lead to a greater potential for human error and a huge waste of precious time, money and valuable resources!

Why You Should Consider Moving Away From A Manual System?

  1. Manual systems leave too much room for human error.
  2. Manual systems take more time and will cost you more in labor and supplies.
  3. Manual systems waste paper and valuable resources and are bad for the environment.
  4. Manual systems will make your company look less professional versus a company who utilizes all the latest technology.
  5. Manual systems make it hard to effectively multi-task all the functions within any given project.

The Take Away

Certainly everyone will agree that doing anything manually is not the best way to run a successful business. And it definitely won’t allow your company any room for unlimited growth without having to hire a much larger staff to maintain that growth.

Moving away from doing anything manually and purchasing a more modern warehousing solution is the absolute best way to grow your ROI and make your business as efficient and productive as possible. If you are still using any types of manual systems in your business, you’re losing money.

Manual Methods

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Cycle Counting (Part 1): What Every Inventory Manager Should Know About It

We would like to share an interesting blog post by Adam Bluemner, the Managing Editor for Find Accounting Software, a service providing free software selection assistance.

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Cycle counting is an improved approach for inventory stock verification. In brief, cycle counting provides a method of splitting the inventory verification task out over time in order to create greater process efficiency and inventory records accuracy. It has two fundamental characteristics:

1.       Stock verification happens continuously over the year, rather than all at once.

2.       High value inventory items get additional attention.

Key points:

  • Industry experts attribute bin location accuracy rates of 95% or even 99% and overall efficiency gains of 5-10% to the implementation of a cycle counting program.
  • Cycle counting puts attention where your investment is by using a group assignment model based on item “value.” An item’s value is determined not by unit supply cost or number of inventory turns, but rather by the combination of the two factors.
  • The advantages of cycle counting over end-of-the-year stock verification intensifies as your organization’s investment in inventory increases.
  • Cycle counting doesn’t require a major investment in equipment, outside services, or human resources.

You can find the rest of this interesting article here: Cycle Counting (Part 1): What Every Inventory Manager Should Know About It

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Top Reasons for Considering an On-site WMS Solution over Cloud-Based

On-Site WMS Solutions

If you are a participant in the rapidly growing and increasingly competitive 3PL market space, you know you are forced to constantly evaluate every aspect of your operations. As information technology plays an increasingly vital role in all elements of logistics, making the right decisions today often determine your ability to succeed tomorrow. One of the pressing issues for many providers today is the issue of relying upon on-premise or cloud IT services.

Warehouse Management Systems

Grappling with everything from transportation to billing to warehouse management presents a complex challenge for many small to mid-sized companies. For those involved in any aspect of warehouse and distribution center management, the solutions begin at the choice of an effective WMS.

The initial decision you face is choosing between one of two directions. The first approach is the traditional method of installing a proprietary system onsite with total, local control of the hardware, software, and network. The second option is to access your WMS through the cloud, relying on the services of a cloud-based data center.

If you turn to the cloud, you face another decision. You can still choose your own, custom WMS, or you can use a web-based product sold as a Software as a Service WMS. There are, then, two key parts of your decision-making process. These are:

  • Keep your WMS customized and proprietary, whether it is on local hardware or managed via the cloud
  • Turn to a more generic, cloud-based WMS that you use in a SaaS environment

Develop Your Scorecard

In coming to a solution that is right for your business, you will balance a number of issues ranging from short-term installation costs to long-term ability to get the job done. If you are trying to decide between a custom installation and SaaS, here are a number of factors to include in that scorecard:

  1. The problem with “one-size fits all.” For all the benefits of a cloud-based SaaS product, the simple fact is that when it comes to effective WMS, it is rare for one package to provide the flexibility and functionality your circumstances requires. Be careful when compromising on essential features when a “simpler solution” seems attractive.
  2. Integration with automated warehouse and handling equipment. One area many packaged systems fall short is full integration with existing and to-be-purchased handling equipment. This usually represents a large capital investment that reflects your specific warehouse operations and needs. Any WMS that does not offer full capabilities in this area presents a major challenge to operational efficiency.
  3. Customer responsiveness. As with your warehouse infrastructure, you have built a customer base with your own style of operations and service. Be wary of any standard WMS that requires you to tinker with that formula of success. Likewise, always remember that your customers are interested in results, not with conforming to your IT needs.
  4. Accountability. If you have a vendor providing your own customized solution, they are accountable and responsive to you. Dealing with a remote vendor serving many customers with a packaged or even slightly modified package often presents problems.
  5. Legal issues. While your cloud SaaS vendor will provide a service agreement, many companies are unaware of their exposures if that remote vendor or data center fails or has other problems. Recapturing your applications and stored data presents a real, if minor, risk to your continuity of operations.

While the cloud is here to stay, the solution that works for you may include an onsite installation. Properly considering your options is the first step in making that decision.

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